Fall Reopening Guide

As UW-Madison moves forward with its Smart Restart plans to reopen this fall, we’re excited to welcome our Badgers back to #LiveWithBucky in the residence halls. We’re working closely with campus leadership and local health experts to create a positive, successful living environment that mitigates the risk of COVID-19 and provides a memorable Wisconsin Experience. We also stress the importance of our students partnering with us to share the responsibility of keeping our campus healthy and safe, including the use of face coverings, practicing physical distancing, and maintaining good hand hygiene. The sections below describe what this fall will look like in University Residence Halls, including the many measures we’re taking to protect our residents.

Fall Move-In

Bucky Badger at fall move-in

  • Fall 2020 move-in will be spaced out to reduce crowds, taking place August 25 – 31, 2020
  • Members of a few approved student groups may receive a move-in date earlier in August
  • Specific move-in dates and times are assigned to each student to allow for safe distancing in each building, and they will be enforced
  • In mid-August, students received a link to a parking permit that they will need to print and bring on their move-in date
  • Each resident will get one red cart to borrow for moving their belongings
  • Carts will be disinfected between move-in shifts
  • Residents will only be allowed to bring up to two helpers during move-in
  • All individuals will need to wear face coverings during the process
  • To further streamline move-in and reduce crowds, students from Wisconsin and some neighboring states were given the option to drop off belongings in their room in mid-August
  • New students should request their Wiscard online at least 2 days before move-in, so that their card is ready when they check in to access their building and dining account
  • We strongly encourage all residents to be tested for COVID-19 at home before move-in, and anyone who tests positive should delay coming to campus until they are no longer contagious
  • If you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, please do not come to campus – get tested and adjust your arrival date if needed
  • Any students who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 and have completed their isolation requirements must submit formal proof of their positive test prior to coming to campus, so that they can be exempt from bi-weekly testing and the isolation/quarantine process
  • All students are required to be tested for COVID-19 on their move-in day, even if they previously tested positive, and should schedule a move-in day testing appointment before they come to campus
  • After moving in, we recommend that students with a roommate also wear a face covering in their room until they receive results from their first on-campus COVID-19 test, which may take up to 72 hours
  • More details about testing are located in the Testing section below
  • More details about move-in are available in the fall move-in section of our moving & breaks page

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When will I get my assigned move-in time?

Students receive their move-in date and time when they receive their hall assignment information, which happened in mid-July for most students.

Who can I contact if I have move-in scheduling questions or concerns?

If a student needs to change their scheduled move-in time, they can reschedule in My UW Housing by canceling their original appointment and selecting from other available times. Time slots are structured to limit the number of families moving into a building at any given time and allow for safe distancing. Any other move-in related questions can be sent by email to reslife@housing.wisc.edu.

Will volunteers be available to assist with move-in?

To practice physical distancing and reduce contact, Badger Buddy volunteers will not be available during move-in this year. Housing staff will be available to direct traffic, check students in, and help with issues.

Will Housing loft the beds for us?

Housing will not be taking specific pre-lofting requests this year, but we will be arranging all beds (except in Sellery and Waters) in the half-loft position. Students can easily rearrange the furniture in different ways themselves when they arrive. We recommend bringing your own rubber mallet to help align the furniture when lofting. Each of our hall web pages offers a lofting guide that shows options and instructions for furniture in your building. If you need assistance with lofting after move-in, you can submit a maintenance request online.

Do I need to get tested for COVID-19 before I come to campus or quarantine after I move in?

All residents will be tested for COVID-19 on their move-in day. Students do not need to get tested before coming to campus, but we ask you to monitor your health in the weeks before move-in, and if you’re experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, please get tested at home and adjust your arrival date if needed. With testing during move-in and classes starting the following week, we are not asking students to quarantine after moving in unless they are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19.

Can parents stay after the 90-minute time slot to help their student’s room?

On the move-in day, parents can stay beyond the assigned time slot as long as they move their vehicle to another lot to free up space for the next group. We also ask that they stay in the resident’s room and respect the space of other families to maintain safe physical distancing.

Hall Assignments

Witte Residence Hall Exterior

  • Information on hall assignments and roommates was sent to students in mid-July
  • Most freshmen will be assigned to doubles with roommates
  • Most triples and quads have been eliminated to reduce density
  • Some students may remain unassigned until later this summer, to allow for final adjustments to our occupancy plan, but all will receive an assignment before move-in

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If I am only taking online classes this semester, can I cancel my Housing contract and stay home?

If a student will no longer be enrolled at UW-Madison in the Fall, we can cancel their University Housing Contract. If a student is still planning on attending UW-Madison in the Fall but is considering all online classes and staying home, they should contact the Housing Assignment Office at assignMe@housing.wisc.edu as soon as possible to discuss options.

How are halls and roommates assigned?

We do our best to assign students based on the preferences they submitted, but not all students can be assigned to one of their preferred halls. All of our buildings offer the same great opportunities and resources, and no matter which residence hall a student lives in, it’s about what they make of the experience. If two students request each other as roommates, they will be assigned together. If a student does not request someone, they will be placed with a randomly assigned roommate.

Are single rooms available?

Our residence halls only have a small number of single rooms in select buildings. The majority of first-year students will be assigned to double rooms.

Will the learning communities still be operating this fall?

Yes, all of our learning communities in the residence halls will be operating with a full calendar of curricular and co-curricular opportunities, offered either remotely or while maintaining physical distancing.

If I don’t live on campus this fall, can I still get a spot in the residence halls for spring semester?

Campus and residence hall plans for the spring semester will be determined at a future date. If space is available in the spring semester, students may be able to apply for the residence halls.

Resident Policies & Expectations

Roommates in Sullivan Hall

  • This year’s Student Housing Handbook has been amended to include COVID-19-related guidelines and policies that all residents must become familiar with
  • To be successful, we’ll need all our students and employees to share the responsibility of keeping our campus community healthy and safe
  • Access to each residence hall will be limited to residents who live in the hall and Housing staff, plus each resident is permitted to host one visitor from another residence hall at any one time
  • Residents are also allowed to visit one another within their own floor or building
  • Visitors who are not current residents of University Housing are not permitted to enter any resident floors
  • Gatherings will be permitted if they are in accordance with the Dane County Public Health Department’s guidelines regarding group size, physical distancing, location, face coverings, etc.
  • Residents and visitors are expected to wear a face-covering at all times while outside of a resident’s room, including hallways and common areas such as dens and kitchens, restrooms, and in the lobby
  • Residents will be required to participate in scheduled COVID-19 testing – failure to attend testing appointments without approval will result in Housing contract termination 
  • House meetings to welcome residents to their community will be conducted virtually by House Fellows
  • Online video content will be available to share campus resources and helpful information that residents can view and continue to access whenever needed
  • Residence Life staff will be offering frequent opportunities for students to get to know each other and to engage in fun and safe activities while taking a break from classes, either virtually or while maintaining physical distancing

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Will there still be House Fellows living on each floor?

Yes, we will have our usual live-in staff of House Fellows in the residence halls to support residents.

Will I be able to take my online classes in my room?

Yes. All resident rooms are equipped with high-speed WiFi to support academic use and entertainment. We recommend students bring comfortable headphones so that they can listen to online classes without disrupting their roommate or floormates.

Will I be allowed to have overnight guests?

Each resident may host a single overnight visitor. Visitors are limited to current residents of University Housing. See the Student Housing Handbook for more details.

Do I have to wear face coverings while in my residence hall?

Yes, all residents are required to wear face coverings while inside the residence hall and outside of their assigned room, except when wearing a face covering is not feasible, such as showering, eating, or brushing teeth.

What if my roommate is not physically distancing?

We encourage residents to communicate these concerns directly to their roommate. If concerns remain after they’ve spoken with the roommate, they can talk to their House Fellow.


  • We strongly encourage all residents to be tested for COVID-19 at home before move-in, and anyone who tests positive should delay coming to campus until they are no longer contagious
  • All students and on-site staff in the residence halls will be tested for COVID-19 on their move-in day and every two weeks thereafter
  • Residents will be assigned testing dates and locations and will make appointments that fit their schedule
  • Tests will be a self-administered nasal swab observed by a University Health Services (UHS) staff member
  • Testing results will be available within 72 hours
  • Residents will be required to participate in testing – failure to attend testing appointments without approval will result in Housing contract termination
  • Full details on testing and instructions for scheduling appointments for residents can be found on our Housing COVID-19 Testing page
  • If residents are experiencing symptoms between scheduled tests, they should immediately go to a campus testing site to be tested and take extra caution in their room until they receive their test results
  • Any students who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 and have completed their isolation requirements must submit formal proof of their positive test prior to coming to campus, so that they can be exempt from bi-weekly testing and the isolation/quarantine process
  • UW-Madison will employ contact tracers trained in conjunction with Public Health Madison & Dane County to help identify those who may have come into contact with anyone testing positive on the UW–Madison campus
  • Additional general campus information about testing is available on the UHS website
  • Students can self-assess their symptoms using the anonymous campus COVID-19 Symptom Tracker web app

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What do I do if I’m feeling sick?

If you are experiencing cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell, stay home. Call University Health Services (608-265-5600) or your personal medical provider immediately. Before going to a clinic, urgent care, or to an emergency room, call ahead and tell them your symptoms and recent travel history.

What happens if my roommate tests positive for COVID-19?

If a student’s roommate tests positive for COVID-19, they would be notified and required to quarantine, either at their permanent home or in a designated quarantine facility.

Will University Apartments residents also be required to be tested regularly?

Residents of University Apartments will not be required to be tested. Tests will be available via drop-in testing centers to the entire campus community.

Isolation & Quarantine

Aerial photo of the Lakeshore residence halls

  • Separate isolation and quarantine spaces will be set aside for residents who test positive for COVID-19 (isolation) or who been notified that they have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive (quarantine)
  • During isolation, COVID-19-positive students must stay in their relocated room for at least 10 days until cleared by UHS to return
  • During quarantine, contacted students must stay in their relocated room for at least 14 days until cleared by UHS to return
  • Roommates of students who test positive will automatically be moved to quarantine housing for a minimum of 14 days
  • Students in isolation and quarantine spaces on campus will receive daily food deliveries and wellness checks
  • Residence Life staff will make contact with students after arrival to make a plan for checking in throughout their stay
  • Students may be encouraged to return to their permanent home for the quarantine or isolation period if they are able to do so
  • During quarantine or isolation, students can monitor and track any symptoms using the campus anonymous COVID-19 self-symptom assessment web app
  • During quarantine or isolation, students must follow all expectations:
    • Remain in their assigned room (quarantine) or building (isolation) at all times except in the event of an emergency or medical appointment
    • Cannot attend class in person
    • Cannot attend work in person
    • No visitors allowed
    • Submit a health self-assessment daily
    • Wear a face covering anytime outside of the room
    • Observe quiet hours from 11:00pm – 7:00am
    • No smoking or vaping (cannot leave the building to smoke or vape)
    • No controlled substances, alcohol, or alcoholic beverages permitted
    • No pets allowed with the exception of approved service animals and ESAs
    • No deliveries after 9:00pm
  • Additional details can be found on the Quarantine and Isolation Housing Accommodations microsite

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What things should I bring with me when going into quarantine or isolation?

Students should plan to bring supplies for at least the next 10-14 days. You might consider keeping a suitcase or bag prepared in case you need to quarantine or isolate at some point on short notice. Items to think about bringing include:

  • School supplies (textbooks, notebooks, pens, etc.)
  • Electronics and chargers
  • Written list of important phone numbers and any allergies
  • Prescription medication
  • Nonprescription medications to reduce fever, aches, or coughing
  • Thermometer
  • Face coverings
  • Comfortable clothing for resting
  • Workout clothing for in-room workouts if feeling well
  • Comfort items to help the space feel familiar, such as a blanket, pillows, etc.
  • Personal care items (body lotion, feminine hygiene, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, hairbrush, hair ties)
  • Snacks
  • Entertainment or other distractions

How will it work If I choose to go home for quarantine or isolation?

If you are contacted about being moved to quarantine or isolation, you will need to vacate your residence hall that same day. If you choose to go to your permanent home for this period, you will need someone to pick you up that day, or you will be placed in a designated facility until you can be picked up. If you go home, you must remain there until cleared by UHS to return to your residence hall.

Do I need to do anything if one of my family members tests positive?

If a member of your permanent household tests positive for COVID-19 and you have recently been home, you may need to quarantine for 14 days past your most recent exposure to this individual. If this happens, please contact the COVID-19 positive reporting center by email at covidresults@wisc.edu or by phone at 608-890-0000. If you have documentation from a contact tracer to verify the exposure, please have that available.

Are there any isolation spaces available for students who live off-campus?

The University does not expect to have capacity to support off-campus residents in isolation facilities on campus. Campus continues to work with Public Health Madison Dane County in their support of students who need to self-isolate in the community.

Cleaning & Prevention

Custodial staff cleaning a campus bathroom

  • Disinfecting of all high touch point areas in all common spaces and bathrooms will be increased
  • EPA-registered disinfectants that are effective against coronavirus will be used
  • Electrostatic sprayers will be used for disinfecting
  • Employees will be wearing masks, practicing physical distancing and monitoring for COVID symptoms
  • All Housing staff will receive COVID training and education
  • Additional hand sanitizer stations will be available for resident use
  • Resident-use disinfectant wipe stations will be added
  • Disinfecting cleaning supplies will be available for resident use
  • Disinfecting procedures will be implemented for common-use check-out equipment (vacuums, move-in carts, etc.)

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What items should residents bring for cleaning and protection?

We recommend students bring face coverings, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, cleaning supplies, disposable latex gloves, and a thermometer. Students may also consider bringing a portable room air purifier (with HEPA filter or UV-type). These items are included in this year’s “What Bucky Would Bring to Campus” list.

How frequently are bathrooms cleaned?

Bathrooms and high touch point areas will be disinfected a minimum of twice daily by Housing staff. Residents are encouraged to wipe down fixtures between uses. Disinfectant wipe dispensers are located throughout the building.

Physical Spaces

A lounge in Dejope set up with physical distancing

  • Floor markers and building signage will be posted to promote physical distancing, personal hygiene and symptom monitoring
  • Barriers/shields will be installed at all service desks, cashier stations and on partition walls in dining room areas
  • Occupancy in common spaces will be reduced and seating arrangements will be modified to promote physical distancing
  • Exhaust and outside make-up air in our ventilation systems will be maximized
  • Air filtration will be increased where possible
  • Use of shared kitchens will be temporarily limited to only students with special dietary needs
  • Residents will be reminded regularly to wear face coverings and physically distance in shared spaces such as bathrooms, laundry rooms, and elevators
  • Shared computer workstations will be removed from Technology Learning Centers except for printing workstations

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Can students bring air purifiers for their room?

Air ionizers and portable UV air purifiers can be effective at disinfecting the air in these spaces, and residents are welcome to bring those devices.

Can windows be opened in all resident rooms to get fresh air?

Yes, all resident rooms have openable windows to provide more ventilation as desired, with the exception of 2-window rooms in Sellery that have a window A/C unit.

Can COVID travel through the ventilation system in my residence hall?

While the heating and cooling systems vary by building, Resident rooms are designed as individual spaces and do not exchange air with adjoining resident rooms or common areas.

Will elevators be restricted to one person at a time?

Elevators are contained spaces, and you should always wear a face covering when you use one. We may impose limits on the number of passengers. Individuals with accessibility concerns should be given priority to use the elevators. Residents assigned to lower numbered floors in high-rise buildings will be encouraged to use the stairways.

End of Semester

Roommates in Cole Hall

  • After November Break, beginning November 30, UW–Madison will switch to a virtual format for all undergraduate courses for the final nine days of instruction plus exams
  • Plans are not yet finalized for the residence halls after November Break

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Will I be able to stay in my room after Thanksgiving?

At a minimum, students who need to stay in the residence halls for various reasons after classes go fully online for the end of the semester will be allowed to stay. The full status of the residence halls after Thanksgiving will be determined at a future date. At this time, we anticipate students will be able to leave their belongings in their room during winter break for when they return for spring semester.

Will housing rates be adjusted?

We intend to follow our housing rates that were approved by the Board of Regents. As of this time, we are not anticipating any reductions in Housing rates. If the campus had to shift entirely to online classes, a separate decision would be made about housing. If the residence halls had to close during the fall semester due to COVID-19, much like last spring, University Housing would provide fair reimbursement to students in our residence halls for time lost, and we would still accommodate any students who needed to stay on campus.


Food photography of vegetables

  • All of our dining locations across campus will be open for residents
  • Added options for touchless ordering, delivery, carry-out, and reheatable meals will be offered
  • To better serve our residents, access to Housing dining markets will be limited to only Housing residents and Housing staff
  • Seating areas will be adjusted for required physical distancing and event space will be repurposed for additional student seating
  • Single points of entry and exit will manage customer flow
  • Build-Your-Own and Make-Your-Own options will be temporarily discontinued
  • Self-service offerings will be temporarily discontinued
  • All items will be served on disposable service ware with disposable flatware
  • Robot delivery and mobile/online pre-order options will be offered
  • Physical barriers will be installed as appropriate and in accordance with EHS and DCH guidelines
  • Touchpoints will be disinfected and sanitized regularly
  • Protocols for employee safety and sanitization will be enhanced

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Will non-residents still be able to purchase food on campus?

Access to Housing Dining locations and residence halls will be limited to Housing residents and Housing staff. This allows us to better manage crowd sizes and physical distancing while focusing our service on the students living in the residence halls. Students living off-campus this fall will be able to order Housing food through our robot delivery service within the campus delivery area map. The service area, however, does not include most off-campus apartments.  Students and other campus community members can order food from Housing Dining locations through GrubHub and pick up at our remote pick up locations. Students can also still dine on campus at locations managed by the Wisconsin Union, including Memorial Union, Union South, Badger Markets, and several other cafe and deli locations around campus.

Who can I contact if I have questions or concerns about nutrition, food allergies, or other dietary needs?

Residents can view our nutrition and allergens information online, fill out the allergy/dietary requirement self-declaration form, or contact our registered dietitian at dietitian@housing.wisc.edu or 608-262-3994.

What online ordering options will be available to residents?

Residents can place online orders through GrubHub for pickup or through Starship for delivery on campus.

Can I take food out back to my room?

Yes, once food is purchased, it can be taken out the dining markets back to the residence hall.